Juniper Opens Up to Apps Developers

Call it user-generated content for IP geeks. Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) is letting select customers and partners play with its JunOS operating system to create their own applications as part of a program being launched Monday.

The Partner Solution Development Platform (PSDP) is aimed at widening the scope of Juniper's router software. If it works, customers could develop their own JunOS applications without having to wait for JunOS's strict updating schedule. Independent software vendors (ISVs) could even sell their homegrown applications jointly with Juniper.

"It's a way to get third-party applications running within the router traffic as quickly as possible," says IDC analyst Eve Griliches, who thinks the PSDP is a great idea. "The applications we don't know about today could be created by some startup company and developed into a Juniper application. Things are moving so quickly in the market."

This isn't quite quite like Verizon Wireless opening up its network. (See Verizon Tears Down the 'Walled Garden' .)

In fact, it's nothing like that, nor is Juniper joining the treehouse of open-source licensing.

The PSDP is an invitation-only process. Juniper has to give permission for any given project to start, and a Juniper support team will watch every step of the application's development.

Juniper says its presence will help partners avoid messing up their routers' functions. But officials admit it's also a way to make sure no one exploits the PSDP to develop rogue applications. That applies to ISVs especially.

"We would work with them in a very specific manner where we knew exactly what they were going to take to market," says Craig Bardenheuer, Juniper's vice president of joint development and product partnerships.

Still, it's an interesting experiment. Juniper (and Cisco) customers can already write applications to run on their own blades, but here they're getting to go elbow-deep in JunOS, accessing the control and data planes, and even messing with the routing tables if necessary.

This won't be like some Internet video "beta test" that ends up in the hands of every schoolkid who wants in, though. "In the foreseeable future, I don't see the project going beyond invite-only," Bardenheuer says.

Juniper is announcing Aricent Inc. and Avaya Inc. as two of the first invitees, but Bardenheuer says others have been approved.

One thing the PSDP creates is a way around JunOS's release schedule. Unlike Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), which supports multiple releases of its Internetwork Operating System (IOS), Juniper keeps one release of JunOS for all applicable routers. Updates arrive once per quarter with the stringency of a Swiss train schedule -- if a feature isn't ready, it's left behind.

Partly, then, the PSDP would be for the folks who can't wait, or those who need something that's never going to be part of a JunOS update.

"They can build things that are unique to their needs and their specific timeframes," Bardenheuer says. "We've had a number of customers ask us about being able to build unique capabilities for them."

What kinds of things would they build? Juniper says a few ideas are already in the works: ISV applications to be sold jointly with Juniper; unique services developed by a carrier; or a JunOS-based appliance to be sold by a third-party vendor.

Juniper could face some complications if the program grows quickly. For one, the company would have to keep adding to that pool of developers who work with PSDP participants.

Juniper could also end up tussling over the details of the application programming interface (API) that lets other code talk to JunOS. "They might have somebody like the government who takes an application and does so much development on it that they want the API changed again," Griliches says. Then "it becomes a customer maintenance issue."

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 2:57:34 PM
re: Juniper Opens Up to Apps Developers I can't tell how much of an advantage this would give Juniper, and it's probably not enough to sway die-hard Cisco customers into changing over. But I thought it was an interesting idea. Other opinions?
mr zippy 12/5/2012 | 2:57:33 PM
re: Juniper Opens Up to Apps Developers Not that I've used it or know of anybody using it, however Cisco have a TCL interpreter built into the IOS, allowing people to run self written apps on the router itself. Maybe this is the Juniper equivalent, albeit much more strict?
douaibei 12/5/2012 | 2:57:31 PM
re: Juniper Opens Up to Apps Developers the open architecture including the software and hardware is the trend

couple of years ago, vendor propritery hardware and software is a must to create new service. Things has changed with more powerfule generic x86 or xxx architecture become available at extremely low cost.

Software architecture moving towards the SOA or open architecture. Junos originate from Freebsd, it's native open architecture may add some value in this open trend.

the question is how the business model pay itself?

the open router or PBX gateway architecture is becoing mature and is available for commercial use. can we imagine the next cisco router will be: Unified communication routers , more linux based modules will be developed like the WAAS or SCE module.

the commoditize of the low end router has emerged with the latest service pack like IP PBX, IM etc.

we are entering a new Cots development business model, every technology is commodity on its own, the innovation comes from how to integrate the technical offering in right market.

personally I believe IBM is right, servce adapater layer will be deployed everywhere, it can be a protocol adapter, control intelligence or something new....

any way, technology is commodity, it's quite difficult to make money just from technolgoy now.

fashion can be the new money maker?
prs6str 12/5/2012 | 2:57:31 PM
re: Juniper Opens Up to Apps Developers That's like Microsoft watching over a company developing an application for Windows...how could the company trust that they wouldn't just take their IP? With published APIs, you can even have competitors develop to your platform, but with this approach, you have to be great partners by definition. I'm curious to see how this will work.
prs6str 12/5/2012 | 2:57:29 PM
re: Juniper Opens Up to Apps Developers What's most realistic though? How many companies would line up to embed code within a Juniper? I've often thought that a blade within could be a worthwhile market. If Juniper could provide the interface and API standards, then a third party could do the packet manipulation that happens on the blade. They could offer the hw complete or let the third party build and "certify" it in some way. Who knows...

While I think the concept is good, the article doesn't make it sound like a winning approach, but then Juniper wouldn't do it if they haven't had pressure to. As a third party, I'd obviously rather have access to Cisco due to market share, though.

Probably the real winning approach would be for someone to start from scratch with an open source approach from day 1 and simply control what functionality gets released as a supported product. Make money by selling the hardware it runs on and the support. With time, this approach could challenge Cisco/Juniper as Redhat, etc., have become a thorn in MS side.
materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 2:57:29 PM
re: Juniper Opens Up to Apps Developers JNPR is right on. Perhaps that open source router, Vyatta (sp) could be causing them some pain. Users can add features to that open source platform at will. Perhaps that is a selling point.

As Layer 3 commoditizes ever more, it will be a platform's ability to push complex upper level stacks at speed that matters. Integration helps.

The risk is that an unstable or unsecure app blows up a bunch of networks. Testing will be important at first.
dfex 12/5/2012 | 2:57:03 PM
re: Juniper Opens Up to Apps Developers The way I see something like this working is to look at a technology like PBT. Juniper don't support it, nor mention plans of supporting it. A 3rd party could roll their own code for it and suddenly their old router does new tricks.

Better yet - imagine writing an RFC for the latest-fangled MPLS extension and being able to implement it on a production-model router within weeks and months instead of years!

The real challenge would lie in the support model. I'm sure Juniper won't be rushing out to support code updates that have been created by other developers.
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